Fire Safety during the cost of living crisis

Saving safely during the Cost of Living crisis

We know people are looking to save money on household bills at this time, but some risks simply are not worth taking. Please follow our advice below to help you stay safe at home this winter.

  • Install a smoke alarm on every floor of your home and test it weekly
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm and test it weekly
  • If you are using a wood burner or fire place, only burn fuels marked 'ready to burn'
  • If you smoke at home ensure cigarettes are fully extinguished. Take extra care if smoking when tired, have been drinking or taking prescription drugs
  • Only purchase electrical items from reputable retailers which have the CE or UKCA mark
  • If you light candles, do not leave them unattended and keep them out of reach of children
  • Follow instructions closely on heating alternatives such as electric blankets or microwavable wheat bags

Need help with saving safely?

If you are looking for ways to save, there is information available online on the Cost of Living Financial Support web page, or through the community helpline on 0300 200 1008.

Home Insurance

Recently we have seen an increase in homeowners trying to save money by not purchasing insurance. Even a small fire in your home could severely damage the contents in your property. Without insurance, you risk losing everything. Many providers offer for customers to pay monthly rather than in an annual lump sum, this may be a better option for some people.

Visit our Safe and Well web page to complete our free home fire safety risk assessment in partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council to get advice on other ways to stay safe at home. If your answers to the assessment hit a threshold you will be contacted by our team to offer you a free Safe and Well visit. You can find out more about these visits on the web page.

Chimney Fire Safety

You should never leave your fireplace or stove unattended when burning, and always ensure you use a spark guard to keep your home, children and pets safe. Always ensure the fire is completely out before you leave the house or go to bed.

How often should I have my chimney swept?

Leaves, bird nests, construction waste or build-up of creosote from the use of improper fuels can all be causes of a chimney fire. National guidance recommends that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, and for those burning wood fuel every six months. How regularly you should get your chimney swept is based on the type of fuel being used.

  • Smokeless fuels and bituminous coal - at least once a year
  • Wood - quarterly when in use
  • Oil - once a year
  • Gas - once a year (refer to the Gas Safety Register to find a registered tradesperson)

We recommend using a HETAS certified sweep, as you can be assured that they will carry out the work to the required safety standard, this is important in the event of an insurance claim. The best time to have your chimney swept is before you start lighting it after a prolonged period, for example on the lead up to the winter months.

If you are using a fuel burning appliance you should have a carbon monoxide alarm placed nearby. Only burn fuels which have the HETAS 'ready to burn' mark on them as this means that the wood will burn cleaner as it is not treated and has a moisture content of less than 20%. You can find out about the ready to burn legislation or find an assured supplier for fuels on the Woodsure find a supplier tool web page.

Storing fuels safely

Be mindful of what you store by your fireplace or stove. Fuels should be stored separately to reduce fire loading and prevent a fire from starting and spreading. You should have at least one working smoke alarm on each level of your home and test them weekly.

Gas Safety

Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. The most common source of CO leaks are from faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers.

Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed in every room with a gas or solid fuel burning appliance, and alarms should be tested weekly with your smoke alarms. For more information on carbon monoxide detectors please take a look at our information on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Servicing your gas appliances

Gas fueled appliances should be services once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. This ensures your appliances are safe to use and are running efficiently. You can find a Gas Safe Register approved engineer via the Gas Safe Register search tool, or by calling 0800 408 5500.

Warning signs to keep an eye out for include:

  • Lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones
  • Black marks or stains on or around the appliance
  • Lots of condensation in the room

The dangers of gas meter fraud

Gas meter fraud involves bypassing or rigging the gas meter in some way so that it does not accurately record the amount of gas that is being used. We know energy rates are soaring, but please do not take the risk of tampering with your gas meter. Not only is gas meter tampering illegal but it is also extremely dangerous and could put your life and the lives of others in danger.

Tampering with meters can cause leaks which you may not always be able to smell. It could cause the gas flames on your hob or gas fire to change size or burn more yellow than blue. Sometimes there are no signs at all which could put your family in real danger.

Visit Stay Energy Safe to see how to spot if you have been the victim of gas theft.

Electrical Safety

There are lots of alternatives to heating available on the market currently, some of which could help you stay warm for less this winter. However, some of these may not meet strict safety standards which could pose a risk to you and your home. Please see our top tips for electrical safety this winter:

  • Only buy electrical items from reputable retailers that you know and trust
  • Do you research about the company you are buying from. You will be able to find reviews on reputable websites from reputable and secure retailers
  • Please purchase with caution. All electrical items should have a UKCA/CE marking on them, this means they meet strict safety regulations. (UKCA markings will be present on newer items so CE markings may not always be visible).

Portable Heaters

Using a portable heater is a popular alternative to heating your entire home. The three most common types of portable heater are ; halogen heaters, fan heaters and oil filled radiators. If not used correctly they can pose a serious fire risk. Electrical Safety First's tips on using these heaters are:

  • Put your heater on a level surface, away from anything that could knock it over
  • Ensure your heater is at least 1 meter away from flammable materials such as paper, furniture and curtains
  • Never dry clothes directly on or in close proximity to a heater. If you need to dry clothes in the same room as a portable heater or open fire, ensure they are placed well away from the heat to reduce the risk of an unwanted fire.
  • Never leave a heater unattended, and turn it off before you go to sleep
  • Do not power portable heaters with extension leads. This can overload them and cause them to spark
  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it is damaged at all, don't use it!
  • Always purchase from recognised and trusted brands. Avoid using a second hand heater.
  • Register your new portable heater with the manufacturer. That way you can easily be contacted if a safety notice or recall is issued.

Find out more about registering your appliances by visiting Electrical Safety First's Product Registration page. Use their free online Product Recall checker to see if your heater or any other electrical items in your home have been recalled.


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